Animal Portraiture, Domesticity & Social Media

The rapid growth of pet ownership in recent decades, characteristic of postmodern societies, raises significant questions about human identity, animal rights, and architecture at large. While other forms of animal confinement, such as the farm, the zoo, or the circus, have been both spatially studied and ethically contested in recent years, critical surveys of domesticity from the perspective of pets are relatively scarce. Even less analyzed is the case of “pet influencers,” that is, domesticated animals whose very existence is mediated and monetized by their owners, mainly on social media platforms. This essay studies the territory of the most followed pet influencers worldwide, specifically the domestic spaces to which their mediated existence is confined, by examining the rooms where they are filmed and analyzing what is both visible and invisible in terms of content, spatiality, circadian rhythms, and animal behavior.

Category: Essay. English
Author/s: Javier F. Contreras
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Data Analytics: BA students in Interior Architecture, HEAD – Genève
KoozArch. May 24, 2024


For centuries, architectural theory has been dominated by solar and diurnal paradigms. References to night in Vitruvius' De Architectura are scarce, as they are in the Renaissance treatises by Alberti or Palladio. However, the night has been, for millennia, a central laboratory in the development of new forms of space. This book offers a first chronological attempt at A Nocturnal History of Architecture, spanning over 2000 years across different geographies and societies. From the elusive darkness of Greek temples to the overlit American suburbia, and from moon-inspired Japanese aesthetics to Italian nightclubs, it reveals how the evolution of human beings and their material environment is inseparable from the night.

Essays by: Sébastien Grosset, Efrosyni Boutsikas, Maria Shevelkina, Murielle Hladik, Maarten Delbeke, Amy Chazkel, Lucía Jalón, Carlotta Darò, Yan Rocher, Alexandra Sumorok, Chase Galis, Cat Rossi, Léa-Catherine Szacka, Hilary Orange, Nick Dunn, Youri Kravtchenko

Category: Book. English
Editor/s: Javier F. Contreras, Vera Sacchetti, Roberto Zancan
Collection: COLUMN (2)
ISBN: 978-3-95905-674-8
Research Platfom: Scènes de Nuit
© HEAD – Genève, Morgan Carlier
(Leipzig: Spector Books, 2024)

Screens Within Screens

This essay examines Twitch's influence on contemporary interior spaces, delving into the interplay between architecture, online interaction, and digital empathy. From its origins as in 2007 to its rise as a dominant platform in gameplay streaming since 2011, Twitch mirrors 20th and 21st-century TV programs in which audiences watch individuals react to audio-visual content. The research highlights the emergence of a novel, seemingly domestic landscape: the "non-circadian interior," where broadcasts within screens neither depict time nor reveal windows or daylight. By analyzing the practices of leading Twitch streamers such as xQc, Ninja, or Pokimane, the essay reveals how live broadcasts and archival content blend with architectural materials whose chromatics, reflections, and tectonics operate within the digital topos of the screen.

Category: Essay. English, Spanish
Author/s: Javier F. Contreras
ISSN: 2813 – 8058
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Twitch Analytics: Charlene Claveria, Lisa Divorne, Noémie Castella

Burning Farm. December 22, 2023 / PLOT, No. 72 (February 2024): 164-173

The Interiors of Social Media

Analyzing the most followed Instagram accounts worldwide, this essay investigates the role that social media plays in the contemporary redefinition of our material environment and its virtual boundaries. Operating within a framework of production/consumption, Instagram establishes hierarchies based on the success of content, the most valued body types, and the types of architecture presented for public consumption. From the members of the Kardashian-Jenner family to Leo Messi, and from Beyoncé to Cristiano Ronaldo, the most followed accounts predominantly feature heterosexual celebrities, reinforcing norms and stereotypes that are regularly framed within interior spaces. Addressing these interiorities through a typological classification is to recognize that they are producing architecture, and therefore spatial behaviors and norms.

Category: Essay. Spanish
Author/s: Javier F. Contreras, Paule Perron
ISSN: 1853-1997
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PLOT, No. 72 (February 2024): 174-183

Toilet, Bathrooom, Restroom

This book presents a series of scientific and design interventions that reflect on the evolution of toilets, both public and private, and their various functions today, including their roles as transgressive, informal meeting places and spaces of coexistence. The texts, primarily written for the 2018 symposium, Intimacy Exposed: Toilet, Bathroom, Restroom (organized by the Department of Interior Architecture at HEAD – Genève), investigate the diverse range of uses to which “wet rooms” can be put in social life. They delve into the recent past of modernist technologies and examine the new entanglements among bodies, objects, and media within contemporary sanitation spaces.

Essays by: Alexandra Midal, Philippe Rahm, Michael Jakob, Catherine Ince, Mariana Siracusa, Joel Sanders, Andrés G. Pruñonosa, Josiane Imhasly, Jérôme Nager, Renaud Haerlingen (Rotor), Eva Gil (elii), Bêka & Lemoine

Category: Book. English
Editor/s: Javier F. Contreras, Roberto Zancan
Collection: COLUMN (1)
ISBN: 978-3-95905-583-3
Full book: Open Access
(Leipzig: Spector Books, 2023)

Space, Matter, and Media from the 1970s to the Second Digital Turn

This essay investigates architecture's shift from construction to media over the last 50 years. At stake is the questioning of architecture's dependence on its traditional cumulative mediums, such as physical matter since its inception, Euclidean geometry in the classical era, printed plans and scale models since the Renaissance, photographic and multimedia imagery since modernity, and 3D and data modeling in recent decades. If the 1970s and 1980s were defined by the transition to the post-medium era with the simultaneous emergence of digital tools, architecture museums, and biennials, the 2000s and 2010s have been marked by the rise of post-occupancy in the second digital turn.

Category: Essay. English, French
Author/s: Javier F. Contreras
ISBN: 979-12-80579-45-4
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Andrea Bellini, ed. Chrysalis. The Butterfly Dream (Geneva: Centre d'Art Contemporain; Milan: Lenz Press, 2023), 130-137

Enric Miralles and the Hockney Collages

In this interview, Benedetta Tagliabue examines the origins of Enric Miralles' interest in the photographic work of David Hockney, as well as the further exploration of photo collage as a design mechanism in the work of Miralles/Tagliabue in the 1990s.

Category: Interview, English
Author/s: Javier F. Contreras, Benedetta Tagliabue
ISSN: 2673-4508
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Superposition, No. 2 - Workout (Autumn 2023): 117-121

Thinking in the Expanded Media

Manifesto of Interiors explores contemporary architecture as the convergence of physical and mediated spaces, encompassing mass communication and digital platforms. While the Internet has accelerated the overlap of space and media in recent decades, this book traces the roots of this hybridization process back to the Renaissance and addresses interior spaces as a central laboratory in shaping late modernity. Considering all forms of representation as inherently architectural—spanning from writing to photography, from drawing to cinema—the manifesto examines contemporary interiors as platforms of “expanded media” that simultaneously belong to different places and temporalities, whether physical or virtual, close or distant. It ultimately delves into recent phenomena, such as the rise of social media and the challenges posed by the Covid crisis, underscoring the pivotal role of interior architecture in defining today’s world.

Category: Book. English, French, Spanish
Author/s: Javier F. Contreras
ISBN: 978-2-940510-45-0
Awards: Selected, XVI BEAU (Bienal Española de Arquitectura y Urbanismo), 2023
English, French editions: Open Access
© Michel Giesbrecht, Guillaume Collignon
(Geneva: HEAD – Publishing, 2021) / (Barcelona: Puente Editores, 2022)

Depuis Rue Las Cases 

This long-overdue, eponymous first monograph of India Mahdavi takes readers on a retrospective journey through the most emblematic realizations of the world-renowned Paris-based interior designer, internationally praised for her unique sense of color. Offering an unprecedented perspective on her creative process, an extensive interview with Mahdavi by Javier F. Contreras contributes to making this volume an insightful exploration of the first twenty years of her career. It includes her most celebrated projects, such as The Gallery at Sketch in London, Ladurée in Los Angeles, Tokyo, and Geneva, as well as her more personal, lesser-known works in Iran and Egypt.

Category: Interview. English
Author/s: Javier F. Contreras, India Mahdavi
ISBN: 978-1-7972-0323-2
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© Chronicle Books
India Mahdavi (Los Angeles: Chronicle Books, 2021)

Excusus into Nocturnal Obliteration in Architectural Media

Founded in 1982 by Richard Levene and Fernando Marquez, El Croquis is a renowned architectural magazine that rarely features night photography. In February 2020, Richard Levene was invited by HEAD – Genève to create a nocturnal edition of the journal. Under his guidance, students spent a week gathering documentation on, and photographing, contemporary buildings in Geneva from dusk to after nightfall. They subsequently laid out and presented this material in a virtual edition titled El Croquis Night. This reversed the journal's usual circadian rhythm, prompting the question: “Is architectural representation diurnal by default?”

Category: Essay. English, French
Author/s: Javier F. Contreras
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Research Platfom: Scènes de Nuit
© Michel Giesbrecht
Interiority. Vol. 4, No. 2 (2021): 181-190 / Plan Libre, No. 179 (2020): 12-14

Night & Architecture

The result of the eponymous 2019 exhibition at f'ar Lausanne, this book explores the spaces, activities, and media influenced by night culture. Its five chapters—SHOP, FILM, CLUB, FOOD, and CITY—take readers on a journey through the nocturnal practices and rituals associated with different space types, including corner shops, cinemas, nightclubs, restaurants, and artificially illuminated urban environments. In doing so, they provide an open-ended framework for investigating the intricate connection between night and architecture.

Contributions by: Sukhdev Sandhu, Martin Kohout, Matthieu Bareyre, Isabelle Corten, Stalker Osservatorio Nomade, Pol Esteve Castelló, Octave Perrault, Daniel Zamarbide, Julien Zanetta, and Collective Domingo

Category: Book. English
Editor/s: Javier F. Contreras, Youri Kravtchenko, Manon Portera
ISBN: 978-84-17905-69-9
Reaserch Platfom: Scènes de Nuit
© Ediciones Asimétricas
(Geneva: HEAD – Publishing; Madrid: Ediciones Asimétricas, 2021)

Thinking and Representation in the Architecture of Enric Miralles

Enric Miralles used to insist that he only designed architecture from ground plans, and it was from plan views that his drawings became intricate cartographies encompassing multiple scales, auxiliary sections, and developed surfaces. The Miralles Projection elucidates both the origin and evolution of Miralles' representation mechanisms, from his time as an architecture student at the Barcelona School of Architecture to his collaboration with Viaplana/Piñón in the 1970s, and from his partnership with Carme Pinós in the 1980s to that with Benedetta Tagliabue in the 1990s. Including previously unpublished drawings and featuring essays and testimonies by former colleagues, collaborators, and partners, this book explains Miralles’ customized use of orthographic projections, connected to a fragment-like conception of the architectural plan and space itself.

Category: Book. English, Spanish
Author/s: Javier F. Contreras
ISBN: 978-1-943532-67-4
PhD Dissertation: 2013
Awards: Finalist, Arquia/Tesis competition, 2015
Spanish Edition: Open Access
(San Francisco: AR+D Publishing, 2020)

Tactile and Reflective Conditions

This essay traces the evolution of Marie-José Van Hee's architecture, with a specific focus on material and tectonic aspects. While early projects like the Lowie-Derks House indicate a transition from symbolic exteriors to experiential interiors, her mature works, such as the Varkensstraat House and the Market Hall in Ghent, illustrate the simultaneous use of textured solidity and atmospheric reflections to incorporate the patina of time into architectural perception. The essay concludes by exploring Van Hee's pursuit of tactile tectonics and layered transparencies in recent decades. In the Buyl and Declercq houses, traditional notions of perspective and figuration, nature and domesticity, are challenged, providing a sensory experience of the tactile and reflective conditions of architecture.

Category: Essay. English
Author/s: Javier F. Contreras
ISBN: 978-90827-6351-5
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Hilde Peleman, and Katrien Vandermarliere, eds. Marie-José Van Hee Architecten: More Home, More Garden (Ghent: Copyright Slow Publishing, 2019), 217-229